Race morning started at just after 5am. I could hear a random guy yelling "good morning wildflower", just as he had done the morning before. I crawled out of my tent and ate some breakfast. Usually when I travel to races I can never sleep the night before a race. But for some reason I slept super well the two nights leading into this race. My accommodations were an old tent that I bought in 4th grade at Fred Meyer, it was missing the rain fly, and had seen some better days. I took the foam out of my bike box, and used it as padding between my sleeping bag and the ground. I did not have room for a pillow, so a sweatshirt did the trick. When it comes to trips I tend to be the person who is unprepared. In high school I spent two weeks at a running camp sleeping under a beach towel because I forgot my sleeping bag. After eating I gathered my stuff together in a back pack, hoped on my bike and headed down the hill to transition. Set up did not take me long and before I knew it I was in the water warming up for my race.
They started us off with a long countdown. I decided to position myself towards the back because I knew that swimming is not my strength. There is no point in starting out front and getting in the way of the other athletes. I dove into the water, and for the first 200 meters got pummeled. The first turn buoy was right behind the sun and I think because of this all of us were running into each other. I worked at staying calm and keeping good form. I honestly thought I would be by myself in this swim, but to my surprise I was sticking with people. The lead pack pulled away pretty quick, but a smaller pack formed and I joined in. Once we hit the farthest point on the course I decided I wanted to push harder, and pulled out from the pack and pushed to the front. It took some time but I eventually made my way to the front. Minus the initial 200 meters my swim felt super relaxed. I really have not worn a wetsuit since September, and my helix still felt just as comfortable as when I got it last year. As I swam up to the swim exit I really did not know what to expect for a time. As I stood up and looked at my watch I was super happy to see 27 minutes and 48 seconds. This is a huge improvement for me, and although it is not a fast time for most pro's it is a PR for me and you always have to be happy with a PR. In 2009 at my first half ironman event my swim time was a 35:19, so I am glad the time in the pool is paying off and improvements are still being made. I am hoping to keep the ball rolling and slowly keep progressing.
Wildflower starts with a steady climb out of transition that lasts for a while. Everyone I had talked to before the race told me to just stay relaxed, and don't get anxious at the start. Sadly I did not listen to this advice. I started the bike quick, and passed Matt Shryock and Brendan Halpin (two athletes from Missoula). I could also see other athletes ahead of me and worked hard to catch them and then build a gap between me and them. As I made it to the top of the first hill, I noticed the winds were starting to pick up, and I knew it was going to be a hard day. I knew with a strong headwind it would be important to stay down in my aero bars. I did a good job of this the first portion of the ride, and I caught and passed quite a few athletes that had swam faster than me. About half way through the ride though the wind started to chip at me. Matt Shryock and Brendan Halpin were slowly gaining on me, and instead of staying in my aero bars up small climbs I found myself standing up and trying to power through the wind. Just before mile 40 Matt caught me, and not much longer after that Brendan also made a move. They were both riding smart and looked strong and powerful. At this point we made a right hand turned and started to head towards "nasty grade". I could still see both Matt and Brendan but they were slowly starting to pull away. I had heard a lot about nasty grade, but if anything I knew this hill would help me. Being that I am less than 130 lbs hills tend to give me an advantage over my competition. I passed two more athletes up nasty grade, butt the two Missoula boys were pulling away even quicker at this point. Eventually I lost sight of them, and tried to stay relaxed. I was still pulling away from the rider behind me, and with less than 10 miles to go I started to prepare my mind for the run.
The temperatures started to climb at this point. The first mile of the run I tried to just get my legs underneath me. I caught another athlete pretty quickly, and built a pretty solid gap. As I continued to run I could not see anyone on the trails in front of me. I started to wonder how far behind I was. After another 2 miles of running I saw another athlete and worked on pulling him in. I passed him on the long climb just after mile 3 and continued down the trail. At around mile 6 I caught and passed another athlete and put about 600 meters on him. It was at this point I passed some University of Montana students who were working an aid station, and they told me Brendan Halpin was just up the trail. This gave me some motivation and I pushed hard to try and catch him. Eventually the trail merges with the road, and It was at this point I saw quite a few athletes, Jordan Rapp, Matt Lieto, Bjorn Anderson and a bunch of other big names were all running in the opposite direction. Brendan Halpin was about 100meters up the road at this point, and I was still working to pull him in. The road continued to head downhill and I noticed the athlete I had passed before was slowly closing on me. At this point I was looking and hoping that the turn around to come back up the hill would appear at any second. We had about two miles to go and I knew I was running out of gas. As soon as I made the turn to head back up the hill, I knew I was blown. My pace had dropped considerably, and about half way up the hill I was passed back. I tried to hang on for as long as I could, and eventually we caught another athlete. He was blown up worse than I was, and I made the pass. The last mile of this race is all down hill so I kept telling myself to just make it to mile 12. The other athlete was pulling away and I just had to hold my position. Once I made it to mile 12 I started to get excited. I looked back and saw no one behind me on the last downhill. I made it to the bottom and ran through the finishing chute. I had completed my first wildflower. If there is anything in this race I am disappointed in, it is my run. I trained for and planned on a run that was much faster. But what I ran is what I had on the day. I guess I gotta go back to the drawing board and change something.
Overall time -4:24:48
There are a lot of people that helped me get to the starting line of this race. I will be posting a blog post about them shortly, but this race would not have been possible without the help of the Bloomsday Road Runners club. I also have to give I huge thanks to fitness fanatics. I cracked my bike frame 2 weeks before the race. I showed up the day before I needed to head out for wildflower with a frame, and they were amazing about helping me get my bike built up so that I could be on my way to California. Since I am not old enough to rent a car in California, I also owe a huge thanks to Kara for driving me around. I learned so much from this race. It has left me with quite a bit of motivation, and has shown me a lot of things that I need to work on to continually improve.